Left Unity National Conference 2022: motions and amendments

Left Unity National Conference 2022 will take place on Saturday 3 December 2022 from 11am until 4pm (online). Register here.

National Conferences are the supreme decision-making body within Left Unity and take place at least once a year. Any member may submit motions, attend and vote. The agenda of conference is overseen by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC).

Standing Orders Committee Report No 2 – 2022 National Conference

Standing Orders Committee

The members of the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) for National Conference 2021 are:

  • Kate Hudson and Craig Lewis.

Motions and Order of Business

The SOC has received 9 policy motions submitted for National Conference.. The motions are reproduced below along with the amendments which were received by the Conference deadline (19 November). The SOC has attempted to group motions on a similar theme. Priority has been given to motions about strategic priorities, followed by policy proposals. Motions from official LU bodies (Branches, caucuses etc.) are listed before those from individual members as in past conferences. However, other than that, the numbering and order of the motions does not imply that they will be taken in this order on the agenda of conference.

The timing of debates and proposed order of business for conference appear in the separate “Order of Business” document which forms part of this report.

1. Under One Banner: London Left Unity Branch

The climate crisis is upon us and already devastating huge populations across the world. The economic crisis of capitalism is deepening. Wars rage in the Ukraine and other parts of the world. Militarisation and the danger of nuclear war are increasing. The pandemic is still with us.

The rise of far-right governments across Europe continues, with recent gains in Sweden and Italy. In Britain the Tory government is in disarray, but still has a parliamentary majority. They are intent on an escalating attack on working class living standards, more anti-trade union legislation, deregulation of capital controls, privatisation of the NHS and attacks on migrants.

The Labour Party has moved very much to the right and ditched most of the Corbyn 2019 manifesto for a pro-business, one nation, neoliberal program. Hundreds of thousands of its members have left the party or been expelled. There is no possibility for the left to regain the leadership of the party within any foreseeable timescale.

There is a fight back being led by Trade Unions with national strike action by left led unions: Unite, RMT, CWU, Aslef, FBU, UCU amongst others. Teachers and NHS workers are being balloted for action. This needs to be escalated, coordinated, and linked to wider social campaigns. Anti-TU laws will need to be defied.

By the end of September 800,000 people had signed up to the Enough is Enough campaign which organised demonstrations to coincide with strike action in over 50 cities on 1 October.

The key question this growing resistance outside the Labour Party poses is the need for new political organisation and representation for the working class. The strikes, the numbers responding to Enough is Enough and the lack of a mass new home for those who responded to the Corbyn led Labour program all demonstrate the objective possibility now for a new mass socialist party.

The next general election will be an anti-Tory election with large scale tactical voting to defeat Tory candidates. In this context, the immediate electoral prospects at national level for a radical socialist party are minimal. However, the roots for such a party need to be laid now. If Labour leads the next government, it will pursue a neoliberal policy agenda, and attacks on the working class will continue. The need and possibility for a mass democratic ecosocialist party setting out an alternative will remain whichever of the major parties (or coalition of them) is in power.

Left Unity on its own has little possibility to influence such a development which will depend on major events in the class and its existing organisations (mainly the trade unions). We must remain open to such developments and participate in progressive campaigns such as Enough is Enough and to defend the NHS where we can. We must continue and build on our work within the European Left Party

Since our last conference, Left Unity has begun to rebuild its trade union work, started to produce a monthly newsletter, worked with others to create the People’s Alliance of the Left (PAL) and begun discussions with the Breakthrough Party about joint work. Our comrades in Wales have built a number of campaigns working with the People’s Assembly Wales and sections of the radical independence movement.

Our ability to play a part in wider developments will depend on deepening this alliance building work we are doing with other small parties, networks and individual socialists: within PAL, with the Breakthrough Party, in anti-austerity & health campaigns, in the radical independence movements in Scotland and Wales, with the People’s Assembly Wales etc. Within this we must argue for the greatest unity of these organisations on an ecosocialist path to supersede capitalism, ‘under one banner’ where possible. Our aim must be to create a unified radical democratic ecosocialist organisation bringing together as many of our ally organisations and individuals as possible.

To this end we resolve to:

  1. prioritise our left alliance building work with the aim of creating a new radical ecosocialist party in Britain;
  2. continue and further develop our work within the European Left Party and link this to our national activity; and,
  3. develop the theoretical discussion section of our website and our social media, inviting our allies outside of Left Unity to participate and offering them a platform to do so.

Amendment 1 to motion 1: Wales Left Unity

Add at the end of “To this end we resolve to 1…; “whilst recognising that such a radical left party will have to develop autonomously within Scotland and Wales, giving full recognition to the right to national self determination and the need for a radical and ecosocialist organisation and movement within these countries”.

Amendment 2 to motion 1: Trade Union Caucus

Add at end of fourth paragraph: “Rebuilding strong grass roots workplace organisation, and rank and file networks within and across trade unions will be vital if this is to happen.”

Amendment 3 to motion 1 proposed by Felicity Dowling, seconded by Jim Hollinshead

add the following after “aim to creating a new ecosocialist”

” internationalist, feminist, free movement party which gives full allegiance to and is deeply involved in the organised working class and our communities”

2. Working with the Rest of the Movement: Liverpool Left Unity Branch

Left Unity should continue to work in solidarity with other groups, parties and organisations who are campaigning for a better life for working class communities at work or in the communities.

We will continue our work in trade unions, on picket lines and in campaigns

We will aim to clearly present a coherent alternative to the Conservative and right-wing Labour’s austerity and repressive policies. A better world is possible

Although we are yet limited in numbers our policies have been carefully developed with campaigners and fellow trade unionists and get a good reception in those campaigns. These policies will develop over time in struggle. Left Unity recognises that our human resources are limited but our ideas are powerful and essential.

We will continue to present our policies of internationalism, Ecosocialism, feminism, trade unionism, anti-racism, anti-fascism free movement of people and to oppose the repression of people based on class, disability, migration status sexual orientation, trans status, or race

We will also continue to work with established campaigns such as those for the restoration of the NHS, climate change, women’s rights, housing rights, education rights, disability rights, climate issues, children’s rights and peace. We will also work with the new campaigns, such as Enough is Enough, and campaigns around warm homes as they arise

We should deepen our links with the European Left party and other international groups

We will continue to develop the reach of our website and social media and to facilitate branches or individuals in producing leaflets for campaigns. We will use our resources to develop our campaigning work, as we have done with the Autumn of resistance

We will produce a booklet or booklets with our main campaign points, modelled on our document on migrant’s rights. This could be done with any other groups happy to collaborate with us on this.

Although elections are important working in the communities and the unions are the key to building.

We will discuss with other groups and parties how we should react to the next General Election or key byelections, or Council elections so socialist ideas are given as much exposure as possible and that election work develops the strength and confidence of the working class and of activists and build towards a party of the working class committed to socialism. Election work needs preparation over time, and the development of effective local teams

3.A Better World is Possible: Liverpool Left Unity Branch

It could produce higher wages higher benefits shorter hours and safer working conditions It could produce a healthier population with improving life expectancy and life expectancy in good health. The systemic attacks on women and children which we have seen in austerity could be effectively removed

Climate crises and extreme weather events could be more effectively managed. A just transition to eco friendly climate jobs could be achieve We could clean the air we breathe. Food policies could reflect both human and ecological need. Public transport could open opportunities and reduce the commuter stress. Children could be well fed, have a child centred education, free university education with grants. Childcare could be universal and free at the point of need. Play could be welcomed back into childhood.

World trade and debt could be justly managed. We could love who we choose without repression. Racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia could be more effectively tackled. The prison system could be systematically reformed.

The drive to war inherent in capitalism could be reversed. Housing could be plentiful and affordable. Society could cease to disable people and instead adapt to people’s needs.

Instead, we have capitalism, Conservative Party capitalism an obnoxious form of capitalism which is oppressive, racist, prone to war and which contributes significantly to the climate disaster. It splits the world into the pauperised Global South and the global north and within the global north sectors of huge wealth and of gross poverty.

  • The economic, political and social situation in the UK is daunting, including likely recession.
    We face Inflation, especially for the poorest and especially in food prices, difficulty in accessing and affording decent housing.
  • Further assault on the poor through austerity with its damage to women and children
  • Public services are so damaged that every day life is made difficult, even our sea waters and rivers are polluted.
  • Our NHS is broken ripped off by privateers and struggling to provide universal health care.
  • Schools underfunded and run by Academies not democratically elected local people
  • Children’s services so broken children are at risk
  • Disabled people are stripped of the right to independent life
  • We are once again being spun the narrative that we can’t afford basic services whilst there is a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich
  • Whilst we battle with this background, our work must be in the communities, in mutual aid, in the unions and in the campaigns, to fight for improvements in day-to-day life and survival
  • Socialism is our alternative; we want bread and roses too

4. Yes to Left Unity – No to Northern Separatism: Oliver Charleston

Conference notes:

  • Discussions held between Left Unity, Breakthrough Party and Northern Independence Party (NIP) were largely positive and welcomed by our members and those of the participating parties
  • However NIP is first and foremost committed to ‘establishing an independent North, to be governed by the people of the North. The historic nation of Northumbria once spanned from the South to Scotland, and so we seek independence for people from Cheshire all the way to the Scottish border.’ (https://www.freethenorth.co.uk/our-values)
  • The historic Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria existed from c.547 to c.878 CE (https://www.britannica.com/place/Northumbria) and has in fact never existed as an independent geopolitical entity since that time. NIP seeks to revive a state that has not existed for over one thousand years.
  • The above NIP programmatic commitment comes before any mention of socialism and the party incorporates national-separatist themes e.g. flags of ‘Northumbria’ were clearly visible behind NIP supporters during recent discussions.

Conference believes:

  • Despite the serious social and economic disparities between the English regions, the working people of the North and the working people of the South, together with the Midlands, need each other now more than ever before, in the 21st Century.

Conference resolves:

  • Left Unity therefore cannot justifiably seek dialogue or any further discussion with a view to alliance building with NIP because of the NIP’s avowed Northern English national-separatist aims and objectives. England would emerge from such a split severely weakened, divided against itself, worker against worker, Northerner against Southerner and Midlander as well as family against family. This is clearly not the basis for building socialism but rather strengthening the whip hand of the English ruling classes seeking to further divide and rule (as they always do). Left Unity must prevail at all costs so we say no to this ultimately reactionary separatist tendency.

Amendment 1 to motion 4

Delete the second and third bullet points and replace with:

However, as they make clear on their home page, NIP first and foremost ‘leads the movement to fight for political independence for the North’ (https://www.freethenorth.co.uk/)

Amendment 2 to motion 4: London Left Unity Branch:

Delete last paragraph/bullet point (after ‘Conference resolves:’) and replace with:

  • Left Unity will continue to engage in discussion with all democratic socialist parties and organisations as appropriate. Discussions that include NIP amongst others do not mean that Left Unity supports a separate Northern English state and should not be interpreted as such. Far more discussion would be needed to take a position for or against. In any joint activities we will not be silent about our internationalist and socialist principles and their relevance to fighting inequalities between regions, as opposed to separatism.

Notice of procedural motion: Wales Left Unity

“Move reference back of the whole motion to the EC and NC with a recommendation that a Left Unity constitutional working group is established to take the political issues raised by this motion and the wider questions of the relationships between ecosocialism, democracy, the constitution of the UK, and our support for the independence of Scotland, Wales and the unification of Ireland. To report to the NC by June 2023”

5. Left Unity Policy: Lou Stothard

Conference resolves:

1) that Left Unity redoubles its resolve to strengthen and unify the authentic left; that LU works as closely as possible with international proven green socialist organisations and communities to build their representation across the world

2) that its policy and strategy are informed, above all else, by the need to sustain, curate and protect the planet via circularity, localisation and exchange [circular economies]; that a transition to circular/exchange, socialist economies be ameliorated by taxing heavily the producers, distributors and investors in environmentally damaging activities, and by wresting land from the hands of land bankers

3) that there must be a revision of the concepts of renewability and sustainability so as to measure human activities solely by objective parameters

4)  that all fossil fuels must stay in the ground – that there can be no new gas, coal, or oil; and that no timber or wood products are used to produce biomass energy; that a fracking/UCG ban is made permanent; that no nuclear fission  is henceforth used to produce energy, and that existing nuclear power production installations are decommissioned; that only wind, solar, hydro, wave and  human/ animal wheel-powered energy be considered sustainable. 

5) that LU demands the  release of empty homes and buildings for release, refurbishment and repurposing as the mainstay of a housing strategy in the UK and worldwide, and according to circularity; that corresponding planning restrictions be placed on volume building/newbuild; and that volume builders/newbuilders be prevented from deforesting any land and to any degree; or from turning over any green land; or from extinguishing any habitat or species; that a land value tax is introduced to prevent land banking ~

6) that there must be an embargo on the production/distribution of and trade in all arms and military hardware, including nuclear arms, chemical and biowarfare, security tech and research; that there be, correspondingly, a redeployment of all personnel from the warfare industry to civilian energy and green transport logistics/projects and the agricultural economy.

6. Resolution on Ecosocialist Alliance: Liverpool Left Unity

Conference welcomes the continued work of the Ecosocialist Alliance, and particularly that around the upcoming COP27, and endorses the Ecosocialist Alliance statement to COP (attached).

Conference resolves to continue to develop and broaden the links, both national and international, that the work with the Ecosocialist Alliance has facilitated.

Conference urges members and branches to engage with show support for local climate action activities, and campaign for our ideas among individuals and organisations mobilising around climate issues.

7. Defence Diversification not Increased Arms Spending: LU Trade Union Caucus

Conference is appalled by the decision of this year’s TUC to overturn its long standing commitment to defence diversification in favour of a strategy of rebuilding UK manufacturing industry based on “immediate increases” in defence spending.

Conference notes that:

  • The world is closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban crisis in the mid-1960s.

  • That increases in defence spending, especially on nuclear weapons, are inordinately expensive relative to the jobs they create.

  • That the UK military is one of the most significant contributors to UK carbon emissions, our spiralling military spending is diverting vital public funds from addressing this most pressing security issue.

  • Defence diversification is absolutely essential if we are to create secure, sustainable employment and investment for communities devastated by years of under-investment and public sector cuts.

  • Diversification is achievable at relatively low cost and in a manner which secures high quality jobs. During the pandemic workers at several arms companies like BAe Systems were able to re-tool production lines to help produce hospital ventilators.

  • Any increase in defence spending will come at the expense of those already suffering from the cost of living crisis, with cuts to real wages, jobs and benefits, and now sky-rocketing food, energy bills and mortgages.

  • It is in the interests of working people across the world that Britain creates jobs that help tackle the real threats we face such as the climate crisis; not jobs that drag the world into further arms races that threaten nuclear annihilation.

Conference urges all Left Unity trade union members to campaign to overturn the TUC decision by:

  • In unions supporting increased defence spending: seeking support for branch motions condemning the union leadership’s decision, and demanding the policy be reversed. (GMB, POA, Unite, Prospect, Unite, NASUWT and NAHT.)

  • In unions that opposed the policy: seeking support for branch motions condemning the TUC decision and reaffirming commitment to defence diversification and a just transition to sustainable green jobs.

  • If unions have not done so already, propose affiliation to CND

To this end Left Unity will produce model motions for use by union members and briefing material in support

Amendment to motion 7: Proposed: Bob Whitehead. Seconded: Mike Tucker

Delete the third bullet point: “That the UK military is one of the most significant contributors to UK carbon emissions, our spiralling military spending is diverting vital public funds from addressing this most pressing security issue.”

And Insert:

 “That the UK’s spiralling military spending is diverting vital public funds from the pressing need to curb carbon emissions.”

8. Defiance Not Compliance: London Left Unity Branch

Conference notes that there is a growing, sharpening polarisation regarding immigration in the UK (not so much in Scotland). On the one hand the government has moved the anti-immigration legislation further to the right through the Nationality and Borders Act, together with the Rwanda Plan.

On the other hand there are growing numbers of people not only opposed to this legislation but are prepared to take action defying these laws and solidarity with the people risking their lives crossing the Channel. And within the migrants’ rights movement an increasing number of people are opposing the whole edifice of immigration controls. In particular we note the position of defiance taken by the PCS union, the anti-raids campaigns and Doctors Not Cops/Patients Not Passports.

Conference is concerned about the demand for “safe and legal routes” advanced by many within the migrants’ rights movement. This is an ambiguous demand. This could mean that the routes open to British citizens into the country will be open to migrants and refugees – i.e., Open the Borders – a demand we support. But it could mean that there will be a small number of routes through which migrants are allowed to use which is policed by immigration officers who will send back those not satisfying legal requirements – which we do not support.

Conference further notes the pathetic position of the leadership of the Labour Party, criticising the government from the right for not being effective in stemming the flow of migrants into Britain. This is a return to the position the Labour Party had prior to the period of Corbyn leadership.

Conference notes the success of fascist/far-right parties in parts of Europe – Italy and France. Despite the current weakness of the far right in the Britain we recognise that such forces could come to the fore in the future, particularly given the extraordinary unstable political situation here.

Conference therefore:

  1. Re-asserts Left Unity’s support for Freedom of Movement and opposition to immigration controls and advance arguments for this at every appropriate opportunity.
  2. Salutes the defiant stand of the PCS and will campaign for other unions to take a stand of defiance. Left Unity salutes all movements which prevent immigration controls being implemented
  3. Engage with campaigns to scrap the Nationalities and Borders Act 2022 immediately
  4. Argue against “Safe and Legal routes” demand. There is one way to defeat the people smugglers and that is to open the borders.
  5. Left Unity will challenge the Labour Party’s reactionary position on immigration and will support those people of principle within the Labour Party in arguing against controls and for defiance.
  6. Remain vigilant against the fascists. They Shall Not Pass.

 

9. Let Us Support Our Comrades in Belarus: Oliver Charleston

Conference notes:

  • Since 1994, the post-Soviet state of Belarus has been under the iron thumb of President Alexander Grigorevich Lukashenko, who has systematically re-moulded the entirety of the political, judicial and economic life of that country under his very personalist dictatorship (Belarus is infamously known as ‘the Last Dictatorship in Europe’). Lukashenka has created an extensive security apparatus under the Belarusian KGB that regularly uses the most brutal violence, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of detainees. Some of his political opponents have even disappeared, never to be heard of again. (Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship by A. Wilson, Yale, 2021).
  • Following the Presidential elections in 2006 and 2010 there has been waves of intense crackdowns against the opposition in Belarus, the latest being in the aftermath of the disputed 2020 Presidential elections; this is still ongoing.
  • One of the parties that have suffered the repeated wrath of Lukashenko is the Belarusian Party of the Left “Just World”(hereon referred to as Belarusian Left Party). This party is the direct successor of the Soviet-era Communist Party of Belarus and was founded in December 1991. From 2009, it has been a member of the Party of the European Left.
  • The Lukashenko regime helped engineered a split in the party in 1996 and created a puppet party ‘Communist Party of Belarus’ which merely serves as a pliant prop to his autocratic regime.
  • Since then, our comrades in the Belarusian Left Party have reported severe police brutality. In 1997, police beat up a journalist from the party newspaper Tovarisch in the capital, Minsk. (Belarus – A denationalized Nation by D. Marples, Harwood 1999). More recently in the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential elections, one activist reported to Left Unity that he had been forced face down with hands tied and beaten in a prison courtyard. He was subsequently gaoled in over-crowded and unsanitary conditions. (https://leftunity.org/belarusian-left-speaks-out/) Another anonymous source, who is also a party activist, has reported that a comrade was sentenced to five years imprisonment in a maximum security prison for comments made over social media. The Government will punish even the most minor acts of dissent such as writing on walls with chalk!

Conference believes:

  • The violence and repression against the Belarusian Left Party and political and civil opposition to President Lukashenko must end now and free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections must take place as soon as possible in Belarus.

Conference resolves:

  • Left Unity will do everything we can to support our persecuted sister party, the Belarusian Left Party, in Belarus and raise greater awareness in Britain, and beyond, of the Lukashenko dictatorship. At the European level, we welcome our Belarusian comrades continued participation in the Party of the European Left and support all efforts in aid of helping bring about the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy to the long-suffering masses of Belarus.

Amendment to motion 9: London Left Unity Branch

In the penultimate paragraph/bullet point, delete: “..to President Lukashenko must end now and free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections must take place as soon as possible in Belarus.”

And replace with:

…“must be ended immediately by the overthrow of the dictatorship of Lukashenko and his Presidential regime by a provisional government which convenes elections for a constituent assembly with the aim of establishing a fully democratic and social republic.” 

 

Register for a place at the conference here.

 


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